Barbarisms: Multilingualism and Modernity in Narratives of the Spanish-speaking World

Deriving from the Greek word barbaros or uncivilized foreigner, barbarism onomatopoeically conveys the stuttering or repetitive sound of incomprehensible foreign speech. Denoting violence and the primitive, the word also refers to imported elements in language or errors in morphology, reinforcing the association of foreignness with intrusion and the inarticulate. These combined associations make barbarism an interesting lens through which to view the uses of multilingualism in literature, especially in relation to modernity. Defined by both enlightenment and xenophobic violence, characterised by upheaval and the mass movement of people, modernity has also, in the Spanish-speaking world, been dogged by the discourse of barbarism. This talk explored some of the ways in which novelists have employed multilingual techniques to engage with the twentieth century’s barbarous modernity.


Listen to this seminar as a podcast here.